Dog lovers should consider ill effects of crossbreeding over “cuteness”

A cursory stroll along Reddit lane is but a small reminder of our social obsession when it comes to canines — the wrinkled face of a pug and the goofy, lopsided grin of a golden retriever can summon a smile faster than any gurgling baby. After all, these animals are cute in the most unassuming of ways. But while most of us may chalk it up to some genetic jackpot, humans are indisputably responsible for many of these breeds.

The origin of the dog can be traced as far back as 15,000 years ago, when hunter-gatherers domesticated European gray wolves. According to The Scientist, there are several theories about how this happened. Some posit that hunter-gatherers utilized wolves as guard animals in exchange for food and shelter, while others believe foraging in human food scrap piles conditioned the wolves to become comfortable when exposed to their two-legged neighbors. Still others believe orphaned wolf pups were raised and nursed alongside human babies, and one National Geographic article even suggests that friendly wolves sought attention from humans.

Regardless of the nature of their origins, it’s clear that man has played a sizable part in the breeding and crossbreeding of dogs. Human influence allows us to pepper our everyday conversations with words like “maltipoo” and “labradoodle” and not be laughed out of the room, a right many exercise with pride. Such crossbreeds are visible manifestations of what we value: floppy ears, scrunched-up noses and a body that can fit into a teacup. But most of us don’t realize that crossbreeding for certain features not only affects a dog’s appearance but its health as well.

Flat-faced breeds such as bulldogs often suffer from breathing difficulties because of their shortened air passages, and the wrinkled skin on the faces of Chinese Shar-Peis and around the eyes of bloodhounds often lead to skin and eye infections. Size can also affect health, as “teacup” dogs often have heart problems and trouble staying warm, while their larger boned brothers (such as mastiffs and Great Danes) suffer orthopaedic problems due to inadequate bone and joint structure holding up so much excess weight.

We continually place our desire for “cuteness” over the way certain breed-able features negatively affect our pets. Crossbreeding has its costs, and if we really loved our dogs, we would evaluate the effects with regards to more than just appearance.

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